My A-Z process and guide on documentary event photography

Event photographers are documentarians. Or at least that’s my view and style of event photography. I aim to be present but at the same time blend into the background enough to capture the elusive candid moments.

My process has evolved over the years as I gained more experience as a photographer and got more comfortable around strangers. Every event is a new challenge, even if you think you know how the sequence of events typically goes. When you throw in a bunch of different people in a new environment, you just never know what will happen.

I’m no expert when it comes to event photography. I’m simply sharing my personal experiences and what I have learned over the years as I have photographed for friends, family and clients.

To read the full blog post check it out here

Preparing for the event

As for any photography session and in fact in many things in life, preparation is key. Once the event is over, you won’t be able to re-create it. Preparation is important to ensure you know what to expect during the event, what gear you will need to capture the images and what the client expects of you.

It goes without saying good communication with your client is really important. From the moment a prospective client contacts you through to the point you deliver your images to your client. Get all the details you need about the event by asking the client the right questions:

  • What is the event, when & where is the event, how long would you like you to the photographer to be there for.
  • Depending on the event, ask for a schedule for the day and how many people are likely to be present.
  • Is it an indoor or outdoor shoot – this is very important to prepare yourself for the weather and also picking the right gear due to different lighting conditions
  • What kind of photos are your clients after (e.g. posed images, candid images) and are they key moments, shots or people you client wouldn’t want you to miss

Setting clear expectation with your client

Once you know the answers to the questions above, that gives you a good basis to set clear expectations with your client. You will know how much to charge and what the deliverables will be. This will be relevant if the client didn’t pick a pre-made photography package that clearly outlined what they will get. Let your client know upfront your photography fees and get it paid upfront as part of the booking process. This would be different for weddings or other full day or multiday events where the fee is a much higher rate, photographers would probably charge a booking fee initially followed by asking the client to pay the remainder X number of days before the event.

If you have any concerns about not being able to meet your clients expectations, it’s important to voice it out now. You may even have some suggestions on how to maximise the use of your photography services to get the best outcome for the client. For example if your client only wants you for 2 hours of your time but it’s a 3 hour event and the client wants your there when the guests arrive for the party, but also when the fireworks happen at the end for some long exposure shots. Then it’s most definitely important to point out the logistical problem with that. If the client is on a tighter budget, then perhaps you can help your client narrow down the most important moments your client would like you to capture so that they are making the most of their hired photographer.

I also try to let my client know roughly how many final images they can expect from you. I always err on the side of caution. Under promise and over deliver. More often than not, I end up delivering more images that I am expected too. However, more is certainly not always better, you want to only deliver your best images and also images that may not be technically the best, but it captures important moments or expressions. You want your clients to ultimately walk away with your exceeding their expectations.

Creating a shot list in collaboration with your client may be helpful depending on the event. This makes sure you will definitely capture the shots they’d like at a minimum. Don’t let this restrict you though. It’s still important to be on a constant look out for interesting and emotive images during the shoot. I find those are typically the ones that turn out to be the best shots.

Lastly it’s also important to have a written agreement with your client. It sets out the expectations for your clients but also gives your client the peace of mind of knowing what to expect in writing.

Continue reading about my preparation process, what I do during the event and what I do after the event (Post processing) here

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